University of Vermont

Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President

Contact Information

The Year Ahead

To: Faculty and Staff of the University of Vermont

From: Jane Knodell, Provost and Senior Vice President

Subject: The Year Ahead

Date: September 10, 2012

Greetings! I am genuinely delighted that our entire community is back home and that your voices, enthusiasm, and ideas once again fill our halls, classrooms, and laboratories. The arrival of our new President, Tom Sullivan, has added to the excitement that ushers in each fall. In his brief time on campus, President Sullivan has invigorated and inspired our community to strive for even greater quality and distinction in our teaching, scholarship, creative work and outreach at the University of Vermont. Essential to our success in all of these areas is the dedication and commitment of our faculty and staff working in partnership to create an outstanding student experience.

We accomplished much last year, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for that work, to remind ourselves of our achievements, and to let you know where much of this work stands. President Sullivan has reviewed our progress and agrees that these initiatives will play important roles in advancing the institution. He will share his own thoughts and ideas about additional areas of focus and investment later in the semester.

Strategic Initiatives Project

I remain grateful for the work so many members of our community invested in this ambitious project (you can find several year-end reports summarizing academic year 2011-12 efforts on the Strategic Initiatives Project website). During the 2012-13 academic year, we will move forward with several important strands of this project.

Institutional Grant Program – I have established an initial $200,000 base budget for this program that will invest in seed-grants that will lead to external funding as well as provide support in areas where external grant opportunities are limited. Vice President Domenico Grasso has invested $100,000 of his existing budget toward this program as well. He will work with Graduate College Associate Dean Cindy Forehand, Professor and Faculty Senate RSGE Chair Richard Galbraith, and a faculty committee to develop the application and review protocol this semester.

Administrative Program Review – Last year we arrived at a consensus that some structured review of administrative units is necessary, including the establishment of administrative performance metrics and benchmarks and an evaluation of whether the structure, cost and effectiveness of our central administrative departments is on par with comparable institutions. We will develop an administrative review process and schedule this fall, with the goal of implementing a pilot review in Spring, 2013.

Strategic Value/Fiscal Strength Analysis – The recommendations included in the Joint Committee’s report on the Strategic Value/Financial Strength analysis are under review. We are also assembling data that will be necessary for a pilot run of the assessment of our array academic programs later this year. I will issue a more in-depth communication about this when we have more specific information to share.

General Education/Student Success and Satisfaction

The Provost’s Office, in collaboration with the Faculty Senate is sponsoring a First-Year Writing Pilot this year. The Pilot is being led by Professor Nancy Welch, with assistance in assessment provided by the Office of Institutional Research. The outcomes of the Pilot will inform a proposal for a comprehensive, campus-wide writing and information literacy program, intended to form the cornerstone of the General Education project. A two-phased program is envisioned: a foundational writing experience for all first-time first-year students, followed by a discipline-specific writing experience within the student’s academic major. If you have questions, Professor Welch and Associate Provost Brian Reed can provide you with more information. You can also learn more by visiting the Faculty Senate’s General Education website.

The Provost's Office is also sponsoring an enhanced student Peer Mentoring program in first-year courses across campus. The Peer Mentoring Program is designed to help students get engaged and connected during their transition to campus life. The program will involve nearly 400 students and 40 mentors in three academic units: the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, the College of Education and Social Services and the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. In addition to connecting first-year students to upper-class mentors, the program includes five co-curricular modules during the fall semester. An assessment of the impact of the Peer Mentoring program on student success, satisfaction and retention will help determine future directions for the First-Year Experience effort. If you want to know more, you can contact Dani Comey in Student Life or Associate Provost Brian Reed.

To enhance the student experience we have redesigned the myUVM portal on the UVM homepage and developed focused content based on the student’s school/college, cohort, and the time of the academic year. We have also added an advising tab to assist students and to promote meaningful interaction with their faculty advisors. The faculty and staff myUVM tabs were also redesigned and this semester we will enhance the faculty tab layout and content. Recently, we launched a UVM Facebook app which facilitates student engagement by allowing students to find communities and build relationships based on their interests and experiences.

The Transdisciplinary Research Initiative (TRI)

Over the past several months, Vice President Grasso and I have become increasingly aware of the administrative demands associated with leading the Spire Steering Committees as they enter their third year. We believe that all of the Spires are at a point in their development where more formal recognition of their leadership is necessary. For this reason, we have moved forward with Director appointments for each of the Spires. The Complex Systems Spire has essentially had a Director insofar as Professor Peter Dodds has served as both Director of the Complex Systems Center and Chair of the Spire Steering Committee. UVM Extension Dean Doug Lantagne has been appointed Director of the Food Systems Spire and Professor Rae Nishi has been appointed Director of the Neuroscience, Behavior and Health Spire.

Our strength in Complex Systems and Neuroscience, Behavior and Health resulted in UVM being named among the few Universities selected to be one of the receipts of the highly competitive Integrative Graduate Education and Training (IGERT) awards from the National Science Foundation. The theme of the UVM IGERT program is to investigate the relationship between smart grids and human behavior, working to better understand how that relationship informs the development of effective policies for the nation's electric power infrastructure. The Complex Systems Center will be an active partner in the IGERT program.

Dr. Dawei Li has been appointed as the first Spire-driven faculty hire in support of the Neuroscience, Behavior and Health (NBH) Spire. Dr. Li’s expertise in genetic analysis of human behavior and disorders will make him an especially valuable colleague for many investigators, not just those in NBH. We will move forward with a second Spire-driven hire this year in support of the Complex Systems Spire, with a focus on computational social sciences.

Distance Education

Given the important role that distance education will play in a rapidly-changing higher education landscape, we are moving to the next phase of our distance education plan this year, building on last year’s Strategic Initiatives Project (SIP) process. Consequently, we are centralizing distance education for graduate programs in the Graduate College. The Division of Continuing Education will be designated as the unit responsible for assisting the Graduate College with the administration and delivery of these certificates and degrees. Consistent with residential programs, Graduate College Dean Grasso will manage academic oversight, quality control, and all regulatory issues for distance education graduate programs. Dean Grasso will be supported by a dedicated core leadership team chaired by Dean of Libraries and Learning Resources Mara Saule, and including Graduate College Associate Dean Cindy Forehand and Dean of Continuing Education Cynthia Belliveau. The Graduate College will issue bi-yearly requests to all schools and colleges for degree proposals. Going forward, we will need unique, high-quality proposals, and accompanying faculty, to design curriculum and teach. I heartily encourage everyone to participate in the growth of our distance education programming and extend UVM’s reputation around the world.

Diversity and Internationalization

We continue to move forward on strengthening and broadening our campus diversity. This year for the fourth year in a row, ALANA students comprise more than 10% of our entering first year class. Our number of international students is building as well, this year for the first time exceeding 300 students in combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment. We will continue to work on a plan to increase the enrollment of international students at the University of Vermont over time.

Based on strong response to the proposal when presented for campus comment last Spring, a new initiative to bring to UVM a greater diversity of Vermonters is now underway, including a New Americans recruitment program reaching out to first-generation Americans in our local communities, together with renewed Abenaki Outreach. Another goal, also spurred by campus response to the proposal when presented last Spring, focuses on increasing opportunities for study abroad, a recognized high-impact practice. While our current 37% study abroad participation rate already ranks UVM 5th in the nation among public universities, making study abroad a reality for even greater numbers of students across all sectors of campus will enrich both our students’ own lives and our community.

Our progress last year was the work of many hands from all corners of campus. Thank you all for your continued dedication to our community and to each other. I look forward to another productive year.

Full Links Contained in this Message:
Strategic Initiatives Project:
Joint Committee Report:
General Education:

Last modified September 14 2012 01:14 PM